Manuel E. Yepe
WHEN the United Arab Emirates
monarchy ordered the closing of the National
Democratic Institute’s offices in Abu Dhabi in April,
The New York Times reported that certain
forces in the United States were surprised, given
their view of the NDI as a respectable non-profit
agency devoted to promoting democracy around the
identifies itself as a
non-governmental agency despite
the notorious funding it receives from
the U.S. Department of State and
the CIA. Pictured is Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton.
The NDI identifies itself as a non-governmental
agency (NGO) despite the notorious financing it
receives from the United States government through
the Department of State and the CIA.
Given the language used in the
Times article by journalist Steven Lee Myers, it
appears that the majority of U.S. citizens consider
it absolutely natural that the U.S. government
subsidize organizations which send people all over
the world promoting democracy, even supporting
revolutions in nations not considered sufficiently "Jeffersonian."
According to Myers, the U.A.E.
decision constituted "a surprising act of diplomatic
defiance," given that it was made right before the
announcement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s
visit to the country for a meeting with its leaders
and those of other member countries of the Gulf
Clinton did not hesitate to take
exception to the move, but did so in surprisingly
weak terms. She maintained that the NDI played a
vital role supporting NGO’s and civil society in the
region, but limited herself to announcing that she
would be discussing the issue with her hosts.
This moderate position taken by
Clinton, who has displayed her arrogance in other
similar circumstances, reflects the U.S. government’s
need to situate itself carefully within a specific
Just a few days earlier, in Egypt, a
number of representatives of NGO’s "promoting
democracy" there had been arrested and were being
threatened with prosecution, on charges of
interference in the country’s internal affairs.
The accused were representatives of
three well-known NGO’s with ties to the CIA - NDI,
Freedom House and the International Republican
Institute – which had received $65 million in
foreign funding to carry out activities intended to
influence elections underway in the country and
promote U.S. objectives in the region.
The news was widely disseminated in
U.S. media, since among those detained was the son
of Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation in the
Obama administration. He was facing criminal charges
along with several others who were subsequently
released after the U.S. threatened to cancel a
projected $1.3 weapons sale to Egypt.
Activities of the groups, all CIA
fronts, were, however, suspended.
Moscow, as well, has expressed its
indignation given the interventionist activities of
NGO’s in Russia recently. Vladimir Putin has
denounced the fact that during his Presidential
campaign, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent
by the United States to influence the process. China
has expressed similar concerns about U.S.
Robert W. Merry, editor of The
National Interest magazine and author of several
books about U.S. history, asks, in an article
entitled "Unmasking the Democracy Promoters," how
U.S. citizens would feel if analogous organizations
from Russia, China or India devoted vast resources
to influencing internal U.S. politics.
Merry quotes Michael McFaul, NDI
representative in Russia, "We’re not going to get
into the business of dictating [Russia’s] path [to
democracy]. We’re just going to support what we like
to call universal values - not American values, not
Western values, universal values."
Merry continues, "Who, one might ask,
is the arbiter of such universal values, and how
does one get appointed as crusader in their behalf?
To get an answer you would have to travel to Russia,
where McFaul now serves as U.S. ambassador."